Miley Cyrus is no stranger to reinvention, but with the release of her latest album, Younger Now, she stows away her rebellious and refreshingly raunchy Bangerz image. The new record repackages a Hannah Montana-esque innocence which would only seem sincere if she hadn’t appropriated black culture to escape the Disney veil. Fixed on nostalgia and crossroads, Cyrus gives a country-pop harmony that is lovely but hardly innovative.
Produced by Oren Yoel, Younger Now incorporates a modern background to Cyrus’s return to acoustic and simplistic tunes without leaving behind the commercial side of it all. The single “I Would Die For You,” showcases a lyrical vulnerability that hints at the former Disney star’s personal growth. “Thinkin,” the more commercial, fun banger of the group, implements a rare raspy and hypnotic edge to the collection. Meanwhile, staying true to the album’s aspired aura, country legend Dolly Parton lends her voice to “Rainbowland.” Although the song’s message is obscure until Parton’s concluding voice message (“You probably wrote this about some boy you loved”) the song holds more shape and power than the others.
In most of the songs, Cyrus recounts her recent changes reflecting and embracing her musical and personal transitions; often resurfacing her jaded relationship with long-time partner actor Liam Hemsworth. The stylistic shift comes subdued with nuances of what she can achieve as an artist. Unfortunately, the album stands to let down, predictable in sound and somewhat wanting in lyrical depth. The singer’s message to appreciate the past while embracing change comes off strong only through concept and design. Unfortunately, songs like “Inspired” do not hit the mark completely, fading into the generic environment of the album.
While the album is not going to revolutionize pop culture or the music industry, Cyrus is at least honest in her attempt to inspire change in songs like “She’s Not Him,” another rare success in lyrical authenticity that normalizes bisexuality.
Speaking of social changes, the twerking star also addressed her recent dismissal of rap music, which was a staple in her previous projects. “As I get older I understand the effect music has on the world and seeing where we are today I feel the younger generation needs to hear positive powerful lyrics,” she explained in a lengthy Instagram post.
While she may be well-intentioned, her newly found disdain towards rap suggests that her appropriation of rap–and black– culture only served as a crutch to set herself apart from her Disney salad days.
Growing up under the media’s intense scrutiny is reason enough to take whatever you can to survive artistically, but Younger Now cannot justify how easily she discarded the influence of black music on her career. While the album is fun and many young fans will enjoy it, Cyrus’s recent changes will only leave the rap community open to more criticism in the media. Hopefully, her next transition will focus on more “positive, powerful music” without allowing her fans to normalize the problematic effects of her changes.
By Stephanie Elmir